It is finally here. The rematch that everyone wanted to see all season long between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. Before we get into the Finals, let’s quickly discuss how these teams got here.
For Miami it was an anticlimactic series win against the Indiana Pacers, but you won’t hear LeBron and company complaining. The Pacers simply couldn’t handle the Heat in Game 6; evident by the 117 to 92 final score. A big inconsistency for the Pacers was Roy Hibbert. He managed to score 0 points once in each series (He actually accomplished this feat 4 times in total: 2 times against ATL in back to back games, 1 – WSH, 1 – MIA). On top of dealing with the necessary improvement of Hibbert, the Pacers have to figure out what to do with Lance Stephenson in the off-season.
For the 2014/2015 season, the Pacers have locked up Hibbert ($14.8 mil), David West ($12.0 mil), George Hill ($8.0 mil), and Paul George ($16.9 mil) to big money. That’s $51 million for four players, when the salary cap for this current season is $58.6 (but expect that to increase by $5 million). So now say the cap is raised to $63.2 million for next season with those four players locked up for $51 mil, not to mention you have Evan Turner’s obnoxious $8.7 million, Luis Scola’s $4.5 million, and CJ Watson and Chris Copeland’s combined $5 million. All in all, I expected some different faces in Indiana outside of the core four. Lance Stephenson is going to want close to double figures in salary and it will make it tough on Larry Bird and other executives to keep him. The Pacers are considering themselves lucky he only cost $981,349 this past season.
On the other side of the draw, the San Antonio Spurs escaped from the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games. Here’s a question: if Serge Ibaka played in those first two games, does this series have a different outcome? There’s a good chance it could have been. Ibaka’s play was the reason the series was tied 2-2 going into Game 5. Game 5 was probably the worst game Ibaka played, posting 6 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST, 2 BLK, while shooting 3/10 from the field. Ibaka’s performance was not the reason why the Thunder lost. They had stretches during each game where the ball was in the hands of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook way too much. Scott Brooks, OKC’s coach, basically told the team to give the ball to Durant or Westbrook and let them figure it out for themselves. You can’t do things like this against the San Antonio Spurs. As my roommate Dan says, “They’re just so god damn fundamental”.
So what is next for the Thunder? The only contracts that are expiring are Thabo Sefolosha’s and Derek Fisher’s. Other than that, you’re going to see the same Thunder team that went against the Spurs in the Western Conference finals given some unusual off-season trade. The Thunder have $67 mil locked up for next year so I’m not expecting much action from them this off-season.
Let’s start talking about the Finals now.
In the 2013/2014 NBA preview I wrote that the Heat would lose to the Pacers, but the Pacers simply weren’t the same team during the series with the Heat compared with the team that ended 2013 at 25-5. My new prediction is San Antonio Spurs in 7 games. Here is why:
Reason 1: Supporting Cast
If you don’t know by now, it’s a rematch of last year’s thrilling finals, but there are some differences. One difference is the Rosters.
For the Heat, they lost a valuable three-point shooter in Mike Miller. Who left this past offseason to join the Memphis Grizzlies. Two other additions to the roster for this season were Michael Beasley and Greg Oden. Neither of this two acquisitions have developed into what coach Erik Spoelstra would have liked. They have combined for two points the entire post season (Yes, you read that right).
For the Spurs, Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson are no longer with them. Marco Belinelli joined the team from Chicago and has provided the Spurs with quality bench minutes and consistent outside shooting. Gregg Popovich has creatively used his deep bench to help take minutes off of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills, and even Cory Joseph have played huge minutes in the playoffs to help the Spurs reach the finals. Tony Parker’s status will be monitored due to his ailing ankle, but I don’t expect him to miss a game on this type of stage. I give the edge to the Spurs in terms of their supporting cast.
Reason 2: Home Court Advantage
Even though the Heat are perfect at home this post season. Having home court in a seven game series is always good to have. The Heat beat Charlotte in 4, Brooklyn in 5, and Indiana in 6. It’s only fitting that the finals go 7 games again, just like last year, but I don’t think the Heat will have enough in the tank. Dwyane Wade needs to keep shooting 52% from the field and 40% from 3. LeBron needs support from Wade and also Chris Bosh, who has proven his outside shooting ability lately. Coming into this postseason, Bosh had only made 24 3-PT shots. Coming into the finals, he already has 25. If LeBron does his thing with Wade and Bosh shooting at a high level, the home court advantage may not matter. Regardless, having home court will help especially in the new 2-2-1-1-1 format, as opposed to the old finals format of 2-3-2.
We can go on and on, but ultimately it will come down to defense, timely shooting (I swear to god if Ray Allen does something like he did in Game 6 last year, I’ll lose it), and a little bit of luck (I swear to god if Ray Allen gets another shot to go in like the one in Game 6 last year, I’ll lose it).
Here is an interesting fun fact to leave you with.
In 1984, the Celtics and Lakers faced off in that year’s NBA Finals. The Celtics were 62-20 during the regular season while the Lakers were 54-28. The NBA welcomed a new commissioner in David Stern, replacing Larry O’Brien on April 1, 1984. The Finals that season was also the last time the Finals used the 2-2-1-1-1 format before going to the 2-3-2 format the next year (1985). This season (2014) the Spurs and Heat have their rematch in the Finals. The Spurs were 62-20 during the regular season and the Heat were 54-28. The NBA welcomed a new commissioner in Adam Silver on February 1, replacing David Stern. This Finals will be, for the first time since 1984, using the 2-2-1-1-1 format.
And who won the championship in 1984? The Boston Celtics.
And who happened to be coaching the Lakers that year? Pat Riley.
And who happens to be the General Manager of the Heat right now? Pat Riley.
Hopefully LeBron has something in store for us.
Get ready this month for a couple of NBA related articles. Last year you may remember a Point Guard article I did around the time of the Finals. This time expect a different position to be covered. In addition, expect a new article comparing LeBron James and Kevin Durant and why Kevin Durant WILL win the MVP and NBA Championship next season.
As always, continue to enjoy.